For nearly 18 months now, the Charter Review Committee has been hard at work discussing and drafting a new charter for our city. For those who aren't familiar with city charters, these are the all-important documents that define the organization, powers, functions, and essential procedures of city governments.  

Our current, heavily-patched city charter is outdated and badly in need of an update. You've probably heard my colleagues and me shouting out #charterreform whenever we find ourselves frustrated by the limitations of the current charter. So this is crucial work that the folks on the Charter Review Committee have been doing, with expert guidance from the Collins Center for Public Management of UMass Boston.

City Hall clouds & sun

I've been following this process closely, tuning into Charter Review Committee meetings whenever my council schedule allows. Along with a number of members of the public, I attended the public hearing on June 28 on key aspects expected to be included in the draft of the new charter, viewable here. That final draft of the new charter should emerge from the Charter Review Committee's upcoming meeting on Thursday night. The path forward still requires approval by the City Council, the Mayor, Beacon Hill, and (potentially) the voters of Somerville by a vote.

Overall I'm encouraged by the process and what I expect to come out of it for the City Council to take up after our summer recess.

Here are some highlights of what this draft charter does that I like:

  • Extends the term of office for the mayor from two years to four years (City Council and School Committee terms remain two years)
  • Extends voting eligibility in municipal elections to all Somerville residents 16 years of age and older, regardless of citizenship status
  • Creates a Participatory Budgeting Study Committee to figure out participatory budgeting and a Ranked-Choice Voting Commission to implement RCV in Somerville
  • Gives City Council the power to hire outside legal counsel and staff, as well as a clear process for setting compensation levels for themselves.
  • Codifies and standardizes the hiring and appointment process for department heads and members of multiple-member bodies
  • Spells out specific processes (with dates!) for both community and City Council input into the budget process, as well as a Capital Improvement Program update each fall

And here are some things the draft charter doesn't do that I wish it did:

  • Grant the City Council the power to increase line items in the budget
  • Give the City Council more precise tools to cut budget line items, rather than just reducing general departmental budgets
  • Make Foss Park part of Ward 4 in perpetuity (I joke, but seriously #FossIsFour)

I did ask the committee about those first two things, and I accept they had reasonable arguments at this time for not incorporating those into this draft charter. But I'd love to see those added in a future update to the charter. Overall, I view this as a very positive step forward for our city.

Here are some other things I'd like to put on your radar:

ArtBeat this Saturday!
I'm excited for ArtBeat on Saturday in Davis Square. Presented by the Somerville Arts Council (SAC), this is a great annual multicultural arts festival celebrating many of the things that make Somerville what it is. This year's theme is Rise.

ArtBeat 2022

SAC needs volunteers to help make the event run smoothly. Please considering volunteering and definitely join me in Davis Square on Saturday. A full schedule of the day's events is available on the official event page.

Meet Tanisha Sullivan on Friday night
Upset at our current national political situation like I am? Annoyed by our unnecessary sub-precincts here locally in our new ward maps? Don't agonize. Organize! And the all-important Secretary of the Commonwealth position is a great place to start.

Tanisha Sullivan

I'm delighted to have an amazing candidate running for that office this year in Tanisha Sullivan. That's why I've joined Mayor Katjana Ballantyne and City Council and School Committee members in endorsing her campaign to be our next Secretary of the Commonwealth. I'm hosting an event for her campaign on Friday, July 11, from 6 to 8 PM in my backyard at 83 Jaques Street. Please come meet Tanisha and hear from her and others about why this race matters so much.

Serve on the ARPA Advisory Committee
The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) provides a sorely-needed injection of cash to municipalities. Our city received approximately $78 million in ARPA funds, and we're figuring out exactly how to spend these monies.

The Administration is putting together an ARPA Advisory Committee to guide these major decisions, and Mayor Ballantyne currently is seeking applicants to serve on this committee. The application deadline is Friday, July 29, so definitely apply right away if you're interested!

In other multiple-member body news, the Somerville Municipal Scholarship Committee is seeking one new member.

Mobile Farmers Market underway
This past Friday saw the beginning of the 2022 season of the Somerville Mobile Farmers Market. This program brings local fresh produce directly to some of our city's more vulnerable residents.

Here's the full schedule for this summer and fall:

Somerville Mobile Farmers Market 2022

Community Hours @ Conway Field
During the Grass v. Turf battles that have sprung up in our city around athletic fields, I've consistently made the point that if we are going to install synthetic turf athletic fields, we should at least be taking advantage of their resilience by offering community hours on these fields, where neighborhood residents are able to use the fields without needing a field permit.

Conway Field community hours

With the recent opening of the renovated, access-controlled Conway Field, I advocated for establishing community hours there. I was encouraged when I learned that Parks & Recreation is doing a pilot project at Conway Field over the summer, with 2 to 4 PM on Sundays set aside for community use. City staff will be on hand to ensure that the public is using the field appropriately, following instances of vandalism of some other fields in the city.

SomerMovieFest 2022 schedule
The SomerMovieFest 2022 is back this year with an excellent lineup of recent movies:

SomerMovieFest schedule

The first three films will be shown in Lincoln Park (near Union Square), with the final three screenings taking place in Seven Hills Park (in Davis Square). Please note that showtimes will vary, with films starting at dusk.

Did You Know...
Somerville's current city charter is so out of date that it misgenders our current mayor with he/him/his pronouns -- and Mayor Ballantyne isn't even the first woman mayor we've had!

Office Hours
On Sunday, July 17, I'll be holding joint office hours with Rep. Erika Uyterhoeven at 10 AM at Lexington Park (53 Lexington Avenue). Come talk to us about local and state issues -- and where they intersect!

Coffee Chat with Erika Uyterhoeven

Additionally, I continue to offer on-demand office hours to fit your schedule or for those who prefer to meet individually. You can book time with me via my Calendly to meet in person or virtually, and I encourage you to do so.

Fundraising Plea
One of my goals as your Councilor-At-Large is to improve engagement with the public and increase awareness of what's happening in our city. The tools I'm using to do this -- NationBuilder, Google Workspace, Linktree, Calendly, and Zoom -- all carry subscription costs. So I'm asking for your financial support to pay for these things in order to not leave the campaign account in precarious shape going into next year's elections.

ActBlue donation form

Click here to donate -- and thank you for your support!

The Week Ahead
It's a busy week as we're looking to get as much accomplished as possible before heading out on our summer recess at the end of the week. Here's what I'll be attending meeting-wise this week:


Jake Wilson


Somerville City Councilor-At-Large (he/him/él)